Good morning, afternoon or evening to everyone. Thank you for joining us on this call.
James has highlighted the urgent need for governments to address the quarantine issue. For countries seeking to open up their economies, travel and tourism is a critical sector. Globally it is about 10% of GDP and in some locations, it accounts for much more.
The economic incentive to allow foreign tourists I believe is valid. But we fully understand that after taking severe pain in the lockdown phase, no country wants to import COVID-19.
To emphasize, we are not suggesting that governments with quarantine measures in place should simply open their borders. We are suggesting that governments who assess the need for quarantine, should consider a layering of measures with two objectives:
The first objective is to prevent infected people from flying. Airlines are helping this with flexible conditions for re-booking. Health declarations and eventually COVID-19 testing for arrivals from high-risk areas are extra layers of protection.
The second objective is to prevent clusters from forming in the case that an infected person does travel. Contact tracing will help with this process. And, while the costs of contact tracing are significant, they are far lower than the cost of keeping the travel and tourism business in lockdown.
On top of that, the ICAO Take-off guidelines will reduce the chance of infections while traveling. And the WTTC Safe Travel protocols can be applied across the travel and tourism sector—hotels, convention centers, tourist attractions and so on. And on top of that are the measures that governments are taking across the population to stop the spread of the virus—mask-wearing and social distancing among them.
We believe that this combination of measures offers the protections needed to be a credible way forward for governments. And it will enable millions of workers in the travel and tourism sector to get back to work.
And, just before taking your questions, I wanted to share a note of optimism. This crisis has demonstrated how much is lost when the world cannot travel. We have seen that in the reporting over the last week as Europe began to open.
There are some who say that travel will be changed or reduced forever. I disagree.
For sure, business travelers will question their travel habits. And leisure travel will be impacted by economic uncertainty. It is going to be a very rough rest of 2020 and probably 2021. As I said last week, the need for government relief measures remains urgent.
But, as much as we are connecting through Zoom, Teams, Houseparty, or other technologies, it is not the same as being there. Flying is freedom, and travel is freedom. That is not something people forget or lose their desire for. It will take time for the market to return. But when it does, the long-term prospects are solid because we fulfill the fundamental human needs for connection and mobility.